Student-faculty relations: Revolutionizing trust

"Students generally didn't trust anyone over 30 so we were fairly estranged. However, on an individual level, there were many close friendships."

-Tommy Steele, '70

. . . Following the week of May Days, some students and professors noted the "revolutionary" nature of the Strike at UVA. They believed, incorrectly, that the tension between students and the administration had been the first of its kind. Speaking to the incoming class in the fall of 1970, Law Professor Charles Whitebread addressed this fallacy. He explained, "that you now attend a university where campus unrest is not unprecedented" . . .

Thomas Breslin-

Although the SALLY HEMMINGS (radical student newsletter) did flay the University administration it also attempted to support Mr. Shannon when it seemed to us that he was being subjected to too much pressure from state officials as after his statement made on the steps of alderman Library to the effect that the wisdom of the war was not beyond question. The Sally also sought to alert as many as possible to various countermoves being planned by local authorities.

Corks and Curls editor, 1971-

Most of my teachers were surprisingly flexible . . . Many said they deeply feared the intrusion of politics into the University, but hastily added that this was a time when politics - or, let us say, participation in the processes of government - must take precedence over book-learning. I was glad to see that they all upheld firmly the right of the non-striker to attend classes, for I thought then as I do now that it would be hypocritical in the extreme to deny others the freedom of choice for which we were working.

Raymond Bice-

There was a tension about it. At UVA, the students and the faculty have always been real fond of each other and they should be. Many of these ideas were transferred from other universities. At most of the rest of them, they came out rather badly. People got hurt and that sort of thing.

And do you know that in 1969, the radical students put a bug in the Boardroom, a recorder. The Board meetings in those days were not supposed to be open. It was taped up there with masking tape and that didn't hold very well. So during the Board meeting, these things started to fall off and fell down on the leg of one of the lady Board members. There were 2 lady Board members then. There was great concern about this; we didn't know who did it. But at the end of the school year, the library has a special day that you can turn in books without paying a fine. I think they still have this. Anyway, a box came in and it had the tapes that were made with the bug. Whoever did it I guess had some conscience about it.

George Gilliam-

A: Do you know anything about how the administration reacted toward the students? Were they oppositional?

G: I don’t think so. I don’t think that UVA ever really went through the sort-of ‘student governance issues’ that other schools went through. I graduated from Columbia in ’65 and I was out of there by the time this stuff really started at Columbia. But the issue there was, we don’t need somebody telling us what courses we have to take. We want to set our own curriculum. And we don’t need somebody telling us that we have to be back in our dorm rooms at such-and-such time or there could be no women in the rooms or whatever. Virginia never really had that. Those challenges to the administration’s authority never really took hold here.

I think part of that was because Edgar Shannon, who was the President, was very open-minded. People said he knew the name of every student. He had the great ability to remember names and when the first-year class came in, he’d hold a reception up there at Carr’s Hill and he’d shake every hand. And people said he remembered every name. He would drop into dorms and just visit students and walk up and down the Lawn. He continued to teach.

Edgar Shannon-

I think that it's impossible really to look back, but I think that we came through the whole business with essentially our objectives: maintaining the full operation of the University, no one hurt, no property seriously damaged, all of us closer together, and perhaps communicating and talking among all sides, faculty, students, and administrators. So I think that the whole thing in the long run came out pretty well . . . I wouldn't try to second-guess the whole thing.